Hand soap bubbles; Excerpt: Corpse Flower

hand soap bubblesToday’s appreciation: The way the bubbles look while rising through the hand soap refill bottle.

They make me think of hot air balloons. The more the bottle is squeezed, the more air is sucked back in, and the bigger the bubble. Rising up past the rim and up through the viscous fluid to burst against a surface that’s actually at the bottom of the bottle–I couldn’t look away.

I think it’s good to enjoy the little moments in life. Sometimes it’s hard to see the ground for the leaves, but instead of crying for the hidden grass it’s nice to look up at the newly cleared sky.

At the very least, racing soap bubbles turns an everyday task into something a bit magical.


So on Thursday I had the biggest migraine I’ve had in over ten years. It was like someone stuck an ice pick in through my left eye and into my brain. It was absolutely horrible.

If you’ve never had a migraine before, you are truly lucky. Because it’s not just the skull-splitting pain, it’s also the nausea, the eye agony, and the weird and painful sound effects. After a really bad one it takes several days to begin feeling normal again.

I’d almost forgotten what a migraine felt like.

wish I could forget what a migraine feels like. Because that last one? No thanks.

It was so bad that I still feel nauseated when I focus for too long. So don’t be surprised if there’s future stories featuring scenes of insanely awful headaches and the misery that accompanies them.


Anyways, I’ve been scribbling on my NaNoWriMo story. It seems like there’s a lot more thinking happening than action, but I’m sure it will all work itself out.

Which sounds like some of the most hyperbolic bs I’ve ever spouted, but I’ve got a good idea where this story might possibly be going. There’s still another 10 days.

EXCERPT:

Title: Corpse Flower
Note: Dafydd — pronounced “DAH-vith”

Dinner had consisted of pimento-stuffed green olives and dill pickle spears. It made Dafydd think that his kidnappers were inexperienced, that or they hadn’t really believed they’d catch him. Either way, he had the growing fear that they were going to kill him. And there was nothing he could do to stop it.

Huddled on a smelly mattress on the floor, Dafydd wished he’d listened to his uncle’s head of security. The annoying man had told him he was being too predictable with his routine. He hadn’t listened.

Now I’m going to die here in this unfinished basement. The thought was a bleak one.

Hugging his knees against his chest, Dafydd allowed himself to cry. He needed an emotional release and tears seemed the safest. (Blood was something he’d promised to keep on the inside of his body. Self-harm was a suckers bet.)

He missed his family and his friends. He missed the comfort of his own bed and the sense of safety in which he used to sleep. He missed food that wasn’t vinegar and salt.

He’d only been here a little while, but he was ready to tell this whole situation goodbye.

If Dafydd could blink and wish his way home, he would have been long gone. As it was, for a heart stopping length of time, the walls seemed to loom close around him. There were thin lines of color radiating out of different parts of the cinder block walls, pulsating in-and-out with his frantic breaths.

It was only when spots passed across his vision that he realized he was hyperventilating. It was a new and unpleasant experience.

Digging his forehead into his knees, Dafydd tried to bring his breathing under control. It was harder than he expected, and he experienced a new level of empathy for asthmatics.

His lungs became the sole focus of his world. Every breath he couldn’t draw in was another silent scream for “Air!” that he couldn’t answer.

Tears filled his helpless eyes. Darkness edged across his vision. As he lost consciousness the door opened. Hard soled footsteps trekked across the room to stand next to the mattress. He caught a fading glimpse of dark denim pants tucked into ankle high black and tan work shoes.

“Is he finally out yet?” the owner of the shoes asked.

“Looks like,” came a reply from the door, but Dafydd couldn’t see the speaker. It took him a precious few moments to realize that his eyelids had closed.

Hands clasped around his upper arms, careless of any discomfort being caused. “Come and help me. I know he’s a skinny fucker, but he’s limp as a noodle. You sure the drugs aren’t gonna kill him?”

“I’m sure. Here, let me get these.” Dafydd felt hands close around his ankles, but that was it.

He was out for the count.

***

Carp. That was the first memory he had from childhood. He’d delighted in standing on the shore of the manmade lake and feeding pellets and bread to the black spotted brown fish. They would come so close to get the food that he could feel their wide mouths opening and closing against his fingers and palms.

He would stand on the shore for hours while his dad did “business” with his “friends.” Sometimes their voice would get loud, but he’d quickly learned not to turn his head to look.

It was the reason why he missed seeing the “friend” that shot and killed his father. And because he couldn’t specify which of the four men had pulled the trigger, the murderer got away. He’d let the gunpowder residue on his hands be his reasonable doubt as the four men had gone shooting a half hour before killing Dafydd’s scheming yet often bumbling dad.

A propensity for hanging around the wrong people had helped to kill Roland Danvers Cove. But an obsession with carp was what let his murderer get away.

Dafydd tasted helpless rage for the first time when he was seven years old. Standing in the DA’s office with his back pressed against the wall and the fingers of his left hand firmly jammed in his mouth. He’d stopped sucking his fingers when he was four, but he couldn’t resist after the news he’d received.

They weren’t going to pursue the case against his father’s murderer. There wasn’t enough evidence and he wasn’t a viable witness because he hadn’t seen anything with his own eyes.

He’d only heard the loud pop-pop! and when he turned his dad was lying on the ground.

He hadn’t seen the murder himself. But he’d seen the blood and he’d seen the body–his dad— splayed across the ground.

His first thought was that his dad would never sleep in that position. He’d lay flat on his back with his hands folded on his chest–like a vampire, he used to tease.

But he wouldn’t tease anyone ever again, and it was Dafydd’s fault. He should have known who did it.

He should have been watching his dad’s back.

He never went to see the carp again. He’d betrayed his dad by liking the fish more than him.

Because no matter how much he loved his dad, even at that young age he hadn’t liked him.

It wasn’t a surprise that someone would want to kill Roland Cove. It was simply unfortunate that Dafydd was present when it happened.

The feel of what might have been a dozen carp opening and closing their mouths against his arms and hands reminded him of the lake. Mouths nibbled at his fingers and tried to leave hickies up and down his arms.

He wondered if this was really happening. He wanted to believe it was just an odd dream, but he feared it was real.

His eyelids were too heavy to lift and his body was out of his control. He felt like a blind and deaf mannequin, his limbs deadened and immobile–there, but as far away as the moon at the same time.

He’d never felt so helpless before. Not even on that day.

The carp mostly worked their way up his arms and began darting here and there from his shoulders down across his chest.

He was becoming uncomfortable. He didn’t think those mouths were carp. Because when the rapidly multiplying carp spread down past his breastbone so a few could begin mouthing over his stomach, he felt the pressure of teeth in their mouths. Large pointy teeth that hovered over his flesh like a threat.

Maybe they’re piranha, he thought, and they’re just waiting for me to make a move. Then they’ll strip me to the bone.

But he couldn’t move. He was trapped wherever he was lying and there was no stopping what was happening. Even when it became painful and he couldn’t scream.

All he could do was endure.

Dafydd thought that his mind broke somewhere. He definitely felt different afterward, changed in some inexplicable way. His very perceptions seemed to have warped, the world becoming a high contrast mess of bright lights and darkly hued colors.

On first opening his eyes after waking back on his mattress, he immediately stuck his head over the side and vomited. His head was suffering from a spinning headache and now all he could smell was puke.

“Great,” he groaned, rubbing his eyes with his bandaged hands. Then he had to examine what had been done to him, because he hadn’t been wearing bandages before and now he was wrapped from neck to toe. His head was the only part of him uncovered.

He was terrified to see what had been done to him, yet at the same time he had to know.

Stiffly he ran his hands over his body. His sense of touch was subdued, but he got twinges at different points that told him he was wounded beneath the bandages. He could not tell how bad things were, so he refrained from adding any pressure. He had a feeling that he was going to be miserable later.

Or probably sooner than that, he thought at the sound of the door once again being opened.

/EXCERPT

The Blue Fairy: 04

Melissa Kim is stalking the multiverse, hunting after Prince. In segment “04” she’s found herself on a rather unpleasant world ruled by a very unpleasant people.

I think that each world experience should make her stronger. I need her to be strong for what I’ve got planned for her. Without the build up I don’t think it will be believable.

Expect “The Blue Fairy” to have a mix of stories ranging from gen to “Oh no, she gonna die!” So expect thrills, chills, mostly closed bed curtains, some foul language, maybe graphic depictions of life and violence, and Melissa Kim just generally stomping across the multiverse, releasing butterflies and bees in her wake.

I’ve got so much stuff for “All That Remains,” but I’ve got to get everyone in the same universe to make it happen. Plus I need Melissa Kim to continue “From Diamond to Coal”.

Seriously, Melissa Kim is one of the most important characters in my universe. She pushes and nudges here and there, and the Vereint Variants out there find their lives changed in inexplicable ways.

She’s my deus ex machina.

In Abstract

In Abstract -z- apologies for concurrence for no other post could be let out.

I’m having a hard time meeting anyone’s eyes. I feel strange and out of sorts. I’ve got reddish-purple bruises appearing and disappearing at my finger joints. Like I hold my mug in my left hand and for hours later my fingers look like they’ve got liver spots.

I did fine for years without medication. Really I did.

I mean sure, in that time period I probably had more “Here’s money if you let me marry her” proposals than the average person, but it was Nevada! A lot of Mormon guys take their sister-wives cruising. Like, “See, they’re happy and alive. You would be too.”

It didn’t take me long to realize that polygamist Mormons are not like the Amish. Sure, the ladies’ outfits were similar, but he was dressed like Colonel Sanders.

I was fine without meds for years. The problem is that when you start thinking you need them, it’s too late. You’re already off the rails, with imaginary car door slams and an ever encroaching sense that They are out to get you. Whether it’s the police or the tax man or some stranger busting in–the fear is real. And the cause is a lack of vital nutrient in the brain.

Sometimes I have bad days. And even if I’m up, it’s still a bad day because my mood is outside of my control. Angry, empathetic, enthusiastic–they shouldn’t be anything. Except sometimes they’re all too much.

You start talking about something you really love and enjoy. Everyone’s interested and onboard. Until suddenly they’re not or you’re not and it’s awkward and weird but you don’t know how to leave the room.

This guy, he keeps going on about garbage–“The problem’s already been solved, but I still think we should have used #4 switches. I know they’re not going to switch over to my idea–did you see what I did there? :wink:”–but they could at least…”–but you feel bad for him. He’s showing emotions and making gestures to emphasize his points, he’s distraught and you’re trapped in his sphere of nonsense because you can’t get up the wherewithal to hurt his feelings in even the tiniest of ways. Even though there’s a million other things to talk about.

And all those little annoyances that come with a ramped up sense of empathy translate to a bucket load of irritation. Which on top of a runaway sense of enthusiasm, leaves very little room for thoughtfulness. Instead it becomes snapped out responses and an assumption that other people are following the conversation happening in my head. Who knows, maybe some people are.

What it all comes down to is that I fell apart and I never put myself back together. Now I’m lost without a clue but I’m trying.


I’ve been writing more Darkstar stuff lately. “Just Another Titanic Tuesday” features the Darkstar from the Kanon universe.

His life started darker than canon-Vereint’s, or at least that’s the way it’s become. It seems to fit though. There had to be more than no-Warrick for him to conquer all of Megacity and be okay with millions of thralls.

Darkstar tried so hard to be a hero, but it was doomed to failure. It couldn’t work in a world where Sandra Georges was sentenced to life in a penitentiary for criminally insane metahumans.

“Black Friday” was a different event for Darkstar. And it’s made him both darker and more desperate for any happiness he can get.

I’m making “Just Another Titanic Tuesday” into a story game. It will also be a book, but I think the game is a nice bonus.



JATT: King of the World
We can’t all be the king of the world. Sometimes it’s like candy: It melts away in the rain.

Just Another Titanic Tuesday

Chapter One: King of the world

Somewhere out there, past the universe where everything went good and right, there’s the universe where Blue Ice died before they ever had a chance to meet. And in that universe, Starburst became Darkstar and there was never anyone that he loved enough to be Vereint for.

It never felt as though he lost track of himself. It was more as if he’d never existed at all.

Darkstar wallowed in the adulation of his thralls. They would do anything for him. But it was empty, because they didn’t really love him. They loved whatever image his power impressed upon them, whatever unmatchable deity they dared to liken him to.

He’d existed in something like contentment for years. He’d been the king of the world and nothing could bring him down.

Until there was a rip in spacetime and his alternate universe self was looking at him with tragic eyes. For a moment, he’d fully understood why other people found him beautiful. Then that other-Vereint–that not-Darkstar–had opened his mouth: “When are you going to get off your ass, dickbag? People are fucking dying here and you’re playing king of the motherfucking world. Stop being a shithead! Help us. Now.”

And because it was some other universe version of himself making the demand, he’d stepped up and helped.

Because of him multiple worlds got saved. And he felt like shit, or maybe he felt like a shithead; either way, he found himself feeling dissatisfied with his life.

He didn’t blame that other Vereint. If he had a love to protect, he’d move heaven and hell too. It was just the emptiness he hated, the realization that he’d been living an empty life full of empty gestures.

It was at his lowest point that he decided enough was enough.

If that other-Vereint could come to his world, what stopped him from moving to another? It wasn’t like he had to fear attack–if anyone managed to take him out, he figured they deserved the honor–and there wasn’t anyone he felt like giving a goodbye to.

Vereint was driven by the growing sense of purpose to contact Dr. Zee. He knew the superscientist could be trusted–the man was Charm-addled to the point of cruel humor–and he was undeniably brilliant. There was a reason the League of Superheroes went to him with their biggest problems despite the hefty price he attached to his services.

On the day he contacted Dr. Zee and explained what he wanted, Vereint took an hour long walk in a park first. Far away from Megacity and its oh-so loving citizens, he welcomed the anonymity of a charcoal gray hoodie, a black baseball cap, and a pair of dark sunglasses.

He was just one more person amongst a crowd of people as he crossed streets and entered the open gate of the pretty park with its duck pond and rolling green hills. He strolled the paved paths and purchased a hotdog from a white aproned vendor. Nobody pointed and stared, he could pretend that he was anyone; and with the last bite of hotdog he finalized his decision.

Let’s blow this popsicle stand, he thought.

And something that felt a lot like hope passed through his chest.

/END

Heroes & Villains: “Dinner For Two” by Harper Kingsley

Title: Dinner For Two
Author: Harper Kingsley
Series: Heroes & Villains
Setting: post-The Wedding, pre-Allies & Enemies
Characters: Vereint Georges, Warrick Reidenger Tobias

Inspiration:

Walking into the penthouse, Warrick was greeted by bags of groceries on the counter and Vereint wearing an apron and nothing else. The sight of that devilish smile and those bare arms and legs made Warrick hitch his step on the way to the hall closet to hang up his jacket.

“What’s going on?” he asked slowly. He couldn’t help tracing his gaze over Vereint, seeing where the brightly colored fabric curved, bent, cupped, and what it did and didn’t cover. It took him an extra few seconds to get his jacket on the hanger and the closet door closed.

“I thought we’d cook dinner together,” Vereint said. “I saw this recipe for garlic butter steak.”

“Steak?” Warrick’s mouth salivated at the thought. “Butter… That’s going to be a calorie bomb though.”

“Tonight’s special,” Vereint said.

“Oh?” Warrick crossed the intervening space and wrapped his arms around Vereint. He peeked over Vereint’s shoulder and couldn’t help grinning at the sight of a bare back and buttocks. He let the fingers of his right hand drift off the apron and lightly brush against Vereint’s skin. He was always so warm.

Vereint obligingly pressed closer to him, one hand going into Warrick’s hair. “Mm.”

“Why’s tonight special?” Warrick asked. He tried to walk Vereint toward their bedroom, but Vereint didn’t move. Warrick stopped pulling at him, resting his whole weight against him instead. If Vereint didn’t want to be moved, there would be no moving him.

“It’s our anniversary,” Vereint said. He must have felt Warrick’s body stiffen with sudden panic because he laughed. “Don’t worry; it’s not our wedding anniversary. It’s the anniversary of the first time I took you hostage.”

“What?”

“You know, when we were in that bank–”

“And you were wearing that horrible shirt!” Warrick laughed and squeezed Vereint.

“That’s when you fell in love with me,” Vereint said.

“No way,” Warrick said. “You terrorized a bank full of people and took me hostage. I thought you were a brat.”

“A brat that you immediately fell in love with because that’s the kind of person you are. You thrive on adversity.”

“And you being a brat is what you consider adversity?”

“No. I call that ‘charm.’ The adversity part comes in when you try to resist jumping my bones as we sear the rib-eye I’ve got on the counter.” Vereint tugged himself out of Warrick’s arms and headed toward the kitchen. The flirty wink he tossed over his shoulder and the way he flexed the globes of his ass were a dare.

Watching him go, Warrick shook his head with a rueful grin. He could definitely feel the adversity now.

Excerpt: “Overwatch”-segment; Drawing; Whatever

Title: Overwatch
Author: Harper Kingsley
Universe: Kanon-verse (alternate universe version of Heroes & Villains)

EXCERPT –

Here I am, he thought. One day older. One day closer.

He squeezed his eyes closed. Drew a deep breath in through his nose. Then he pressed the button that raised the top portion of the hospital bed to an upright position. He clenched his teeth against the pain, feeling the lines around his nose and eyes pull tight.

If he lived, he would carry reminders of this experience forever.

Finally the pain shifted, released. He could breathe. The tears weren’t threatening to squeeze their way past his eyelids.

He took a few moments to regain his composure. Then he shifted the fingers of his left hand onto the call button. Concentrated. And pressed.

Thirty seconds later a nurse appeared. “Good morning, Blue Ice. Are you ready for your pain medications now?”

Warrick thought about saying No. Thought about pretending to be strong for one more minute and continuing to suffer through this agony that had become his life. Then he thought about cool relief from the nerve pain caused by his continuous brain seizures.

“Sir?” the nurse asked. “Is that a Yes or a No on the pain medication at this time? I need a verbal reply, as per your instructions.”

Sometimes Warrick cursed his past-self. That self-assured fool that had never truly believed he could be brought so low. Who never would have imagined a time when all he’d want was for someone else to make the hard choices, because he hurt too much to even care.

Y-y-yessss,” he hissed out through his teeth.

Then there was sweet relief at the hands of his beautiful caretaker. He didn’t know her name, but he loved her with all the fervor of someone finally released from the grasp of wretched misery.

He drifted for some timeless state of being.

A few precious moments completely free from pain.

Time was pressing in on itself. Soon these moments wouldn’t exist. He would count his blessings in seconds, not minutes. Then milliseconds. Then no relief at all. Pain would become his world.

And then he would die.

I hate this, he thought for the millionth time. Why won’t someone come save me for once?

The door slammed open hard enough to take a gouge out of the wall. Caspian didn’t pause in his entrance, coming right to the side of the bed, his grin a fierce baring of teeth. His eyes were like blue fire.

Warrick’s breath caught. He was all aquiver. He felt a desperate hope blooming in his chest.

“I found it. I found it!” Caspian reached his hand toward Warrick’s face, then ever-so-gently, careful of his friend’s propensity for pain, brushed his finger along the arch of Warrick’s cheek. “As long as you hold on, you miserable fuck, you’re going to be out of this hospital bed in a month, walking around. But you’ve gotta hold on, you hear me War? Can you hold on?”

Warrick drew in a shuddering breath. He formed the words slowly, carefully, wanting himself to be clearly heard. “Y-es. Ho-lding onn iss hw-wha-at I do b-es-t.

/END EXCERPT

crossposted at Kimichee.com

*

I’ve been drawing a bit, which has really helped my imagination come up with storylines and characters.

I got a copy of “Drawing and Painting Beautiful Faces with Jane Davenport” and I’ve been trying to make the people I draw look more attractive and less lopsided. I really like this book. I’ve been carrying it around with me, and I’ve been drawing with colored pencil so I can’t erase anything, and my people’s lips are beginning to look like lips.

*

About the Warrick thing up there ^ ^ – Things are a bit different in the Kanon-verse, and not just where “Pulse of the City” is concerned. It’s why things are so different in “Tuesday Night.”

Excerpt “All That Remains” – from Chapter Five

Title: All That Remains – excerpt Chapter Five
Author: Harper Kingsley
Genre: superhero. science fiction. action. mm.

EXCERPT-

They didn’t get to enjoy the afterglow for even five minutes before someone rang the front doorbell. Then rang it again, and again, and again, before leaving their finger on the button for a long time.

One look at Vereint’s darkening expression had Warrick climbing out of bed. “I’ve got it.”

He pulled on a pair of black sweatpants and a loose gray tee shirt.

“No underwear?” Vereint asked.

“I don’t care if whoever that is sees me free-balling,” Warrick said.

“But it might be one of Nicky’s friends. Put on your robe,” Vereint ordered. Then rolled on his stomach and burrowed his face into his pillow. “I’mma sleep now.”

Warrick rolled his eyes fondly. “If you weren’t so cute…” He picked his robe up off a chair and slipped his arms in the sleeves, tying the belt as he left the bedroom and padded barefoot down the stairs.

Whoever was on the porch rang the doorbell again.

“Okay, okay. I’m coming!” Warrick called. He could feel himself getting irritated. His evening with Vereint was being spoiled by this interruption.

He forced himself not to jerk the door open. The last thing he wanted to deal with was a broken front door. Instead he —-purposely—- turned the knob and opened the door.

“Can I help you?” he asked the delivery man in a frosty tone.

“It’s a good thing you’re here. I was about to leave.” The guy proferred a clipboard. “I need a signature, please.”

Warrick took the clipboard but didn’t sign until the delivery man showed him the package with Vereint’s assumed name on the label. Then he scrawled a signature on the digital paper and exchanged the clipboard for the loaf of bread-sized box.

“Thanks,” he growled, then slammed the door and locked it. He waited until he heard the truck start up and drive away before carrying the package upstairs to Vereint.

“Who was it?” Vereint asked when Warrick came in the room.

“A delivery for you.” Warrick set the box on the bed and began stripping back down. He wasn’t giving up a rare opportunity to lounge naked.

“Hedonist,” Vereint teased. He didn’t lift his head from his pillow, just reached out a hand to snake the box across the covers toward himself. He fumbled at the tape with one hand, eventually pulling it off the lid in one strip.

Warrick climbed into his side of the bed and sat with his back against the headboard. His pillow was somewhere on the floor. “What’d you get?” he asked.

“I don’t know.”

“So it could be a bomb, and you’re opening it on our bed?”

“Yes.” Vereint fumbled the box lid open and tilted it toward Warrick. “What’s in there?”

Warrick reached out to move the brown packing paper out of the way. “It looks like a creepy doll. Is someone going to try and serial kill us now?”

Vereint snorted. “I’d like to see someone try.” He lifted the doll out of the box by its head, tilting it so he could get a good look. “Hm. That is creepy. Who’s it from?”

Warrick glanced at the widely smiling bald ceramic head with the hand and foot-less white cloth body and fought a shudder. He looked at the outside of the box, then the inside. He even flipped it over to show there was nothing inside.

“There’s no name,” he said. “Someone went out of their way to send you a creepy doll anonymously. Strange and suspicious.”

Vereint rolled over and sat up, the bedcovers pooling over his bare lap. He picked up the doll with both hands and examined it closely. “Whoever made this knows how to sew, yet purposely made it look amateurish. It’s a taunt.”

“What–“

Vereint whipped the doll around by one leg and smacked the head against his night table. The head cracked apart, a small slip of paper falling out.

Vereint snatched the paper out of the air and spread it open. “‘I know who you are,'” he read aloud. “What the shit is this?”

/end excerpt

*

Wanna know who these guys are before reading “All That Remains”? Check them out first in “Heroes & Villains“, then follow it up with “Allies & Enemies.”

Defunct opening to “All That Remains”

Title: All That Remains – defunct opening scene
Author: Harper Kingsley
Twitter: @HarperKingsley0
Rating: Mature
WARNING: descriptions of the aftermath of a violent disaster event.

The beginning of this scene is still the current beginning of “All That Remains”, its just I changed the intro for some action stuff.

ALL THAT REMAINS – defunct opening scene

There was the acrid stink of smoke filling the air, along with the screams and desperate cries of the hurt and dying. The street in front of Caspian Dukes was a wreckage of twisted metal where dozens of vehicles had collided.

He felt helpless. Tragedy had already happened and he didn’t know how they could clear away this mess. His mouth tasted sour with failure.

One hour ago he was eating a food truck taco and contemplating a nap. Now he was looking at a triage situation he didn’t feel up to handling.

The lifestyle was wearing him down. Statistically speaking, most superheroes retired out of the field by their tenth year of active duty. He’d been doing this job for close to thirty.

He didn’t think he was quite ready to retire, but he might cut back on some duty shifts. He wouldn’t do anyone any good if he let himself burn out.

Maybe it’s time for a nice vacation, he thought. Surf, sand, and a chance to get my gills wet.

Just the thought of immersing himself in the ocean soothed some of the tension out of his shoulders. Enough that he was able to focus on the task at hand.

As the old timers had said, the ocean always called their people home in the end.

“All right, boys and girls, the situation has changed,” Caspian called out. “It’s time to focus on cleaning up the mess rather than making it. I want each of you to pair up with an Emergency Services team. It’s search and rescue time. Follow the orders of the ES team leader and be careful, safe, and smart. Understood?”

The Junior League members answered in unison, “Yes, sir!” There wasn’t an ounce of hesitation as they rushed forward to rescue the wounded and comfort the dying. They were strong as a unit, even the ones that had never worked together.

Smart, loyal, and quick to follow the orders of their superiors–they were a good bunch of kids and Caspian felt proud watching them swarm the scene. Maybe he was getting old, but the new League members looked younger to him every year. He couldn’t remember a time when he was ever so young and eager to please. There was a part of him that secretly wanted to wrap them up in bubble wrap and deliver them back to their parents safe and sound. Which was ridiculous because they were competent professionals that wouldn’t appreciate his babying.

He shook his head and stalked forward to do his own part. People needed his help.

Trusting that the Juniors would know to give him a yell if they needed him, he helped a couple of Emergency Service officers by ripping the passenger side door off of a car that had been crumpled like a tin can in the fist of a giant. A single peek through the window showed that the driver–a young woman with blood darkened hair shrouding her face–was dead, but the man next to her was weakly struggling with his seatbelt, his dazed eyes unable to focus. He seemed frantic to reach the toddler screaming in the backseat.

“Hold on, buddy,” Caspian said. “Don’t try to move.”

He stepped out of the way of the rescue workers and their backboard, wishing that the car had been a four-door so he could get to the kid. She was unharmed, though the shock of the crash had turned to terror of the unknown. Interspersed with her shrieks were what sounded like the words “Mama!” and “Dada!” and he couldn’t help feeling sorry for her as only one of them was ever going to answer.

Once the father was out of the way and being loaded onto a gurney, Caspian was quick to pull the toddler out of her car seat, turning her so she didn’t get a good look at her mother’s body. “Sh, sh, it’s all right,” he murmured, patting her back and giving her a quick once over.

Her small hands fisted against the front of his uniform and her shrieks trailed into hiccuping cries. Her head moved back and forth, trying to see where “Dada!” had gone, but Caspian kept her turned away from where the paramedics worked. There was quite a bit of blood and he didn’t want to traumatize her more than she already was.

Looking around, he knew she was going to have plenty of stuff to talk about with her future therapist. She’d lost her mother, and her father was probably going to be spending some time in the hospital.

“Here, I’ll take her.” Caspian turned to look at the man that had spoken. He was wearing an Emergency Service uniform along with a Megacity Mavens baseball cap. “You’ve got other stuff to handle.”

“Thanks,” Caspian said. He carefully passed the toddler over, reining in his strength. He’d feel terrible if he accidentally hurt her, especially after everything else she’d experienced.

Stepping away from the totaled car, he looked around to see where he was needed. It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to what he was seeing, like some horrible optical illusion coming into focus.

The street was a scene of damage and destruction. The epicenter was three low buildings close together. From the way the awning had been blown across the street from the middle building–with its plaster pillars shattered and broken mirrors everywhere–Caspian thought that it had been the main site of the disaster.

There was a ten-year-old boy seated on the curb, a vacant expression on his dirty face. He was cradling something in his hands and his dark brown hair was nearly white on top from plaster dust. When he glanced up at Caspian’s approach, his eyes were a startling shade of blue. It was such a striking sight that Caspian hitched his step.

“Hey, kid.” Caspian didn’t bother faking a smile. The situation was too raw to be made light of yet. “Do you know what happened here?”

The boy looked up at him. His hands shifted and Caspian briefly glimpsed the watch that he held. The glass face had a crack running through it and there was plaster dust caught in the band. “It was Becky. She said that she wasn’t feeling good. Then all this happened.”

“I see. And who is Becky?” Caspian asked. The first responders would have gathered the information on their arrival, but it didn’t hurt to get a first hand account when he could.

“She’s a girl in my class.” The boy rubbed the back of his hand under his nose. “She’s dead now. Can I call my dad? I want to go home.”

“It will be a little while,” Caspian said. “You’re going to have to be patient.”

The boy hunched his shoulders with a sigh.

/end scene

EXCERPT: Doggy Style, by Sol Crafter [mm, magical realism, body transformation]

Title: Doggy Style
Author: Sol Crafter
Genre: urban fantasy, magical realim, mm

CHAPTER FOUR

Having his door pounded on at three in the morning would usually have Faraday screaming with rage. But tonight, with his best friend missing and sleep as far from him as the moon, he was up out of the blanket nest he’d made on the couch and running to the front door.

“Hold on, hold on, I’m coming,” he called out.

Relief was a cold rush across his face and down his body when he opened the door and found Zack on the other side. Sure, Zack’s hair was an uncombed mess, his glasses were missing, and the clothes he wore were too large and combined with the lack of shoes or socks to give him a waifish air, but he was alive.

“Oh shit.” Faraday grabbed Zack by the arms and pulled him in close for a desperate hug. “You’re alive.”

Part of him wanted to be mad at Zack for frightening him, but he could feel the way Zack trembled in his arms and it quieted his anger. Obviously something had happened to Zack.

He tugged Zack inside and toward the couch, kicking the door shut behind them. “Are you all right? Here, sit down. I’ll get you something to drink. Do you need to eat?”

“I have no idea what’s going on,” Zack said. He gave Faraday a spooked look and didn’t hesitate to grab the afghan off the couch. He wrapped the brightly decorative piece of cloth around himself and made to draw his legs up under it before seeming to remember that his feet were filthy. “I don’t even know what’s real anymore. This seems like it should be somebody else’s life.”

Faraday hurried into the kitchen area to grab a bottle of cran-raspberry juice out of the fridge. He looked indecisively at the cupboards for a moment before going to the oven and taking out a cookie sheet to use as a tray for the juice. He added two glasses half filled with ice, a plastic bowl of baby carrots and cherry tomatoes, and a package of cheese and chive sandwich crackers.

Part of him wanted to make Zack a couple of turkey sandwiches and possibly a bowl of soup, but he didn’t want to leave him alone for too long. He was paranoid at the idea of Zack disappearing when his back was turned. It was just too bad that he didn’t have much in the way of instant food that wasn’t also junk food.

He carried the makeshift tea tray into the living room and set it on the coffee table. He sat down next to Zack and busied himself with pouring the juice and opening the sandwich crackers.

“Here, I got you a little something to eat. Drink this first.” He pressed one of the glasses into Zack’s hands and gestured for him to drink it. “You’ve got a lot of explaining to do and I don’t want you to have a dry mouth.”

“Gee, thanks.” Zack sipped at the juice and accepted one of the crackers Faraday offered him. He ate it in two quick bites, then looked surprised, as though he hadn’t realized he was hungry.

Faraday let him swallow before asking, “Where the hell have you been? I’ve been going out of my mind with worry.”

“You’re not going to believe me,” Zack said. “I don’t think that I even believe me.”

“Well?”

“I was a dog. A literal dog, with fur and a tail and four feet and everything.”

“You’re right. I don’t believe you.” Faraday flopped down on the couch. He rubbed his hand across his forehead. “Where were you?”

“I’m serious. Look into my eyes. I was a dog.” Zack shook his head. “I have no idea how it happened, but I experienced a full-body transformation. It was like something off TV.”

Faraday had heard all the stories, though magic was usually something that happened to other people. People that moved through darker circles than he or Zack ever had.

“Did you piss off a witch–or I guess it would have to be some kind of enchantress? What did you do to make someone so mad?” he asked.

The look Zack gave him could have melted steel. “I have not had any run-ins with witches, enchantresses, sorcerers, or even party magicians. I have been working and going home as usual. Turning into a dog has got to be the most unlikely things to ever happen to me. I don’t know why anyone would bother cursing me.”

“Hm.” Faraday thought of all the transformation cases he’d ever heard of. It wasn’t a popular spell anymore, since it was power intensive and was a quick way for a magic user to end up in prison. Still, there were stories. “Maybe it wasn’t intended for you. You were cataloging the new shipment. Maybe you triggered some kind of booby trap.”

“Who would leave something like that hanging around?” Zack looked thoughtful. “We did receive all that stuff from that estate sale. I didn’t see anythng in the paperwork about Mary Nye being a magic user, but it’s not something people usually advertise, is it?”

“This is very serious,” Faraday said. “We’re going to have to final reports with the police and get you Cleansed before it becomes a permanent curse.”

“Maybe we should be a bit careful with that. Can we just go to a Cleanser and not bother with the police?”

Faraday stared at Zack, noticing his deadpan expression and the forthright honesty of his stare.

“What did you do?” he asked. He was experiencing a sense of dread.

/EXERPT

This story is being serialized at Kimichee.com.

There's some great tee shirt deals happening at BustedTees. Like $10 and $8 for stuff like this Rick and Morty one.
There’s some great tee shirt deals happening at BustedTees. Like $10 and $8 for stuff like this Rick and Morty one.